Why are we told not to refreeze meat?


Why are we always told not to refreeze meat? When you go to the supermarket, you often find poultry and sometimes beef and pork that is defrosting right there on the rack, and when you freeze it, defrost it, and cook it up, it's not a problem? Nobody dies or pukes, and the meat tastes fine. Is there anything dangerous in freezing steak or chicken, defrosting it, freezing it again, and then defrosting, cooking, and eating it? Am I the victim of an old chef's tale?

-- Ralph, Kensington

Another instance of an industry scaring us dimwitted consumers out of our shorts to protect us from ourselves. If it seems like a fun thing to do, you can freeze and thaw the same piece of meat any number of times. It will get tougher and dryer each time, but if you eventually cook it until it's like a patio paver, nobody will puke or die. The whole story is actually an old bacteriologist's tale. But old bacteriologists don't lie. Freezing doesn't kill all bacteria in foods, nor does it eliminate any bacterial toxins. With each thawing, the germs spring to life again. Some are still deteriorating our food at temperatures approaching zero. Since home freezers don't freeze food very rapidly, there's plenty of time for the bacteria to spoil that steak. If we're convinced to cook meat immediately after thawing it, and cook it well, we minimize the potential risk. But it's not the refreezing itself, as you suspected.

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